Crossing the Line

Recently I have been reflecting on the fact that no matter how long I have been learning about the inside out nature of life, it's always surprising to me how easily it is find myself outside-in. Being outside-in is that moment when I think I am feeling something other than thought (my state of mind) in the moment.  I was curious about this, and upon further reflection I realized there seems to be a defining moment when my thinking goes from inside to outside.  It's as if I have mentally drawn a line in the sand and if that line is crossed, my feelings are suddenly justified and realistic.  Later that day, I usually notice the line has moved.  Of course, when looking at other people, I also noticed their line is at a different point. My brother and I used to joke that life is a 100% inside-out experience, except with regards to Alabama football.

I am going to define the line as that point in which we suddenly think our feelings are coming from something other than thought.  It's a moment in time when we blame our life or others around us for how we think and feel.  When working with children who have anger problems, they will often reference a moment when the other person said something that "crossed the line."  "He wasn't bothering me at all … until he started talking about my momma."  In this kid's mind, having his mom talked about justified his feelings that were essentially caused by the other person.  Once that line is crossed, all the anger management and coping skills previously learned goes out the window.  And why wouldn't they? After all, it makes no sense to take deep breaths and count to ten when it's the other guy's fault that you feel the way you do. Interestingly, a day or maybe even an hour later, he will invariably make some statement suggesting it was unnecessary to get so angry over something so silly. "He doesn't even know my momma … I guess it's because I have an anger problem."

If you step back from this scenario it becomes clear that he doesn't have an anger problem. He simply doesn't understand that it was he who defined the line, drew the line, and reacted to the line being crossed. It's not an anger issue, it's a simple misunderstanding. This is why helping people deal with negative feelings after the fact has a shelf life and ultimately limits their potential for lasting change. Once the line is crossed, it's too late … at least in that moment. This is no different for any negative feeling.

  • "I don't usually worry that much, unless it has something to do with my kids."
  • "I don't care too much about what people think, unless it's my spouse."
  • "I don't really stress that much, unless it's about money."

All the statements above refer to this "line" where they feel justified to feel bad in some way. It's an arbitrary exception made to the spiritual fact that we are always and only feeling our state of mind in any given moment. But it's impossible for a spiritual fact to have exceptions …

The good news is that crossing back over is just a moment away. Everybody is just a thought away from going back inside to see the true source of thought and feeling. These moments are often referred to as a moment of truth — an a-ha moment — or a change of heart. Sydney Banks referred to it as an insight or "sight from within." It's that moment in time when we realize we are feeling our inside world or state of mind, not the outside world of situations and circumstances.

To take this a little deeper, there actually is no line. It's a mental construct similar to state lines and borders between neighboring countries. It's an illusion of our own minds. You will notice some days it's very easy to cross, and others you had completely forgot there was a line. Other people's lines are always moving as well. Realizing the fact that we make up the line and that it's not even real to begin with is hopeful because it gives us permission to take our feelings less seriously when we find ourselves yet again in the outside world. In fact, the worse we feel, the further we have crossed that line, and the more justified we feel as well. Simply stated, the more intense and negative the feelings, the louder the wake up call to look inside. Knowing any given moment is an opportunity to turn around, look within, and step back over from the world of out-sight to insight is comforting, not to mention hopeful in comparison to a world that requires coping and hard work to change.